Bolts jolt Maple Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

TAMPA -- As head coach of the Canadian Olympic team, Pat Quinn had reason to be optimistic last night.

As the coach of the Maple Leafs, well, that's a different story.

On a night when his Leafs appeared to be holding the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in check, they were done in by a pair of stars who almost certainly will be playing for the Team Canada coach at the Winter Games in Turin next February.

With 2004 World Cup MVP Vinny Lecavalier notching a pair of assists and 2003-04 NHL MVP Martin St.Louis chipping in with a goal, the Lightning posted a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum.

For the past two days, Quinn has implied to local reporters here that the Lightning triplets of Lecavalier, St.Louis and Brad Richards were pretty much sure bets to represent Canada in Italy.

They did little to harm their chances last night.

"It definitely gave me a spark knowing he was behind the bench," Lecavalier said of Quinn. "I had a little extra jump out there."

Although he has scored just one goal in his past 12 games, Lecavalier was full marks for his effort.

"Playing for Canada at the Olympics is a dream of mine," he said. "I want it bad."

For Quinn, it was a win-lose situation. While he was disappointed that his team came up short, he recognized the Tampa trio's fine play.

"There is no question they are very talented players," he said. "But we ran into penalty problems again, and that didn't help our cause."

The most damaging minor took place midway through the third period when Jeff O'Neill was nabbed for hooking with the score tied 1-1.

As the King City native helplessly watched from the penalty box, Lecavalier fed Pavel Kubina for a one-timer that cleanly beat goalie Ed Belfour for the winning goal.

"I never saw it," Belfour said.

O'Neill, still seething from the call, was slapped with a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the game.

Attempting to move ahead of Terry Sawchuk and into second place on the all-time goaltenders' wins list with 448, Belfour deserved a better fate in this one.

With the Leafs up 1-0 on an early Nik Antropov goal, Belfour appeared to have made the save on a St. Louis breakaway early in the second period.

But the puck went off his blocker and into the air, looped off the crossbar, hit Belfour again, then trickled over the line for the tying goal.

"I didn't know where it was," he said. "All of a sudden I felt it hit my back."

Lethal on the power play for much of the season, the Leafs went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, including a first period 5-on-3 that could have given them a two-goal lead.

"Tampa was charging at us very hard,"captain Mats Sundin said. "They were very aggressive on the penalty kill."

Darcy Tucker fought off the pain of a sore foot and returned to the lineup last night. The winger was nailed by a shot from the stick of Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Monday.


Videos

Photos